Our Handbook

The Figure 53 Company Handbook

Last updated November 3, 2020

What is this thing and why do we have it?

A few years ago, our company doubled in size pretty quickly. We’re still a small team, with about a dozen Figure 53 employees (aka Action Figures), but that rapid growth changed things a lot. When there were just a handful of people, it felt possible to rely on everyone intuitively feeling out what it meant to work ‘enough’ but not ‘too much’, what employees owed to the company and what the company owed to us, and how to resolve conflicts. With more of us, having a written record of shared values and policies saves a lot of decision-making time and effort.

The goal of this handbook is to express our aspirations, to offer guidelines for preventing missteps, to establish rules for things we require, and to create a structure for crafting a response when we make mistakes. As with everything we do here, we strive to make our policies — and this handbook — a reflection of our actual thoughts, values, creativity, and expectations.

This document contains a mixture of suggestions and requirements. We have tried to make the difference clear between friendly tips and firm policy. If you’re not sure which category something falls into, ask Chris or Cricket.

We expect this handbook and our code of conduct to be a living document that continues to reflect our priorities and policies as the company grows. We do not expect it to be a list of everything employees should and should not do. We do not want a handbook to become a place where we add new rules every time a problem comes up.


Mission

We help people put on a show that they couldn’t have done otherwise.

Putting on a show is what we help make happen in the world. Putting on a show may mean a lot of technique and mechanics, but those details drive toward the moment a kid sits there with their heart pumping and their face glowing, or the moment the performers come back out for their second encore and a group of friends has one of the best nights of their lives. We help make that happen.

Putting on a show is a big tent. Theaters put on a show. Bands put on a show. Churches put on a show. Visual artists put on a show in a gallery. When you’re making a movie, you’re putting on a show and recording it live. We work on shows to be together for something special, and we love helping people do that in ways they couldn’t before.

“What are we making possible that couldn’t be done before?” can have a lot of answers. The answers can be about functionality, or affordability, or speed, or something else. The answers can be different for different kinds of people (students vs professionals), or it can change as a tool evolves, but it’s been a driving force from day one and worth keeping front and center in our minds.


What are we proud of?

Our Company and Our Products

We are trying to build the company and the products we want to see in the world.

Customer Support

Much of our success is built on taking care of our customers with exceptional support and responsiveness. As support has transitioned from a one-person job to a team of specialists, we’ve tried to keep the principles of patience, gratitude, respect, and expertise driving our interactions with customers. Our support team is devoted to problem-solving in a kind and generous spirit. We provide deep technical knowledge, and also bring a curiosity, dedication, and genuine compassion for customers to our work.

Kindness

We treat each other kindly, we treat customers kindly, and we treat other companies kindly (even our competitors).

Neighborliness

We value acting as a good neighbor. It doesn’t mean we have to be best friends with everyone, but it does mean we are polite, respectful, and help the people in our communities when they need it. Our communities include:

  1. our team — the people with whom we work directly every day
  2. our customers — the art makers who use our tools
  3. the geographic places in which we live and work — Baltimore, New York, and Los Angeles
  4. the other companies who also serve the communities we inhabit

We work to be a good neighbor in all four communities.

Independence

A spirit of independence does not imply that we never follow the example of others. Rather, it means that we interrogate why we make each choice to ensure that it’s the right one for us in that moment. Are we choosing to do something that doesn’t align with our values just because it’s the path of least resistance? Conversely, are we needlessly starting from scratch when others have already laid out the best way to do something? The mark of independence is in our power to maintain the sparkling possibility of a different choice, and the occasional and critical act of embracing it.

Our company began from a number of decisions that pushed away from established or traditional paths. We are proud to animate our work with this spirit of independence, and to play an impish role in the industry even when our software becomes a standard in the fields we serve. We are proud of our ability and willingness to break hollow rules and challenge the way things are usually done. When we are uncertain how to proceed with a business decision, it can be helpful to remember this part of our identity to help us break out of the usual patterns.

Being Open and Honest

We try to be genuine, open, and honest with ourselves and our customers. We have open books inside the company and open discussions about important business decisions. We deal directly and honestly when we communicate outside the company. We attempt to behave as a collection of individuals, rather than hiding ourselves behind a faceless facade.

Profit is not the first priority

We enjoy earning money. It’s very important. It’s just not, fundamentally, our highest priority. We need to make enough money, and we sure wouldn’t mind making a lot of money, but it’s okay to make “enough”, rather than “as much as possible”, if that means we are staying true to our other values and living happier lives.

Responding to Failure

While we are not proud of failure itself, we have found that failures represent an opportunity to respond and act based on our values. This can mean an opportunity to be honest, to be generous, or to otherwise find ways to take care of people affected by our failure. When we fail, instead of panicking, we regroup and return to the principles that make us us. And that is a thing to be proud of.


Policies

Salary and Pay

All senior Action Figures who work at least half time have the same base salary.

The base salary is increased by a small stipend for those living in a high-cost location, currently New York or Los Angeles.

We have a flat cost of living increase every year, and your salary is augmented by quarterly profit sharing (see below).

For the details and exact numbers of our current salaries, refer to Basecamp: “Action Figure Headquarters” → “Docs & Files” → “Base Pay and Salary Policies”.

Chris may occasionally give discretionary bonuses, to recognize extra-ordinary work.

Finally, following the guidance of his teammates, Chris has also accepted a 1.5 “CEO multiplier” on his base salary, in recognition of the extra responsibility and burden of the inevitable tasks the CEO always ends up required to handle.

Junior Action Figures

Sometimes we hire people who are starting out in their careers, or who don’t yet have the technical expertise or self-management required of Senior Action Figures. These Junior Action Figures receive the same benefits as senior staff if they work at least half time (health insurance, paid vacation, etc.) Their salary is 66% of the senior salary, and time spent in the junior tier is weighted at 66% of the senior tier for the purposes of profit sharing.

When someone is hired as a Junior Action Figure, they will be assigned a committee of three to four senior staff. Every six months that group meets to go over performance and decide whether it’s time to move up to the senior tier. If it’s not, they suggest concrete skills to work on in order to become senior level.

Hourly Employees

Sometimes we have jobs that aren’t quite big enough to fill the time of a half-time employee, and sometimes we want to hire people who want the flexibility to vary their hours and set their own schedule. In these cases, we hire employees who are paid hourly. The hourly rate varies depending on job, experience, and skill level, but we set it using the base Action Figure salary as a guide. Employees who work less than half time are not eligible for the company benefits described below. The code of conduct and communication policies, and our company’s commitment to be a fair and generous employer, apply to all employees.

Profit Sharing

Figure 53 has quarterly profit sharing across all employees who work at least half-time.

Our profit is defined as: all revenue for the quarter minus all costs except rent or other costs spent on the Voxel theater. A negative profit “carries through” to the calculation of profit sharing in the next quarter until reset by a new calendar year. Put another way: the final profit sharing is calculated as if on a yearly basis, but distributed more frequently. If some profit sharing was distributed early in the year, but we end up losing money for that year as a whole, the early profit sharing is not cancelled or “taken back”. By design, profit sharing is more reserved at the beginning of the year, which should in part help to protect against this risk.

The specific equation for profit sharing is defined in Basecamp, and can be found at: “Action Figure Headquarters” → “Docs & Files” → “Profit Sharing Calculator”. The profit sharing pool is first calculated as 30% of profits up to a certain amount, and subsequently 70% of profits if we pass that amount for the year. The pool is then split according to time invested in the company. Roughly speaking, the split is calculated based on a combination of two factors:

  1. The number of days you’ve worked here (roughly: raw hours worked)
  2. The number of years you’ve worked here (roughly: cumulative institutional knowledge and high-level investment in the company)

Profit sharing does not begin until after you have worked at Figure 53 for one full year, at which point you receive a share that is backdated from your start date.

Chris reserves the option to adjust the profit sharing calculation in the future.

Company Lunches

All Action Figures who are at least half-time can use a company card to buy one lunch a week on a day of your choosing.

Sick Leave

If you are sick you should not come to work. You should not work remotely. You should rest and get better. Stop being sick!

We do not limit the number of sick days, but you must count the number of days you are out sick. Please see the Action Figure Headquarters on Basecamp for details on how to track your time.

Since sick time is not limited, it does not roll over from year to year, nor is it “paid out”. You are paid while you’re sick, but you aren’t paid extra for not being sick.

If your sick leave requires more than 2 weeks of consecutive days off, please speak to Chris or Cricket. For more serious health conditions, please see “Extended Medical Leave” below.

Extended Medical Leave

You may take up to 12 work weeks of paid leave during any 12-month period to attend to the serious health condition of yourself, your spouse or your child. In order to be eligible for extended medical leave, an employee must have been at the business at least 12 months. Please speak to Cricket and Chris if you have extenuating circumstances that require leave beyond the scope of this policy.

Bereavement Leave

In the event of the death of a child, parent, partner, or sibling, you receive 10 days off without question or checking in. For extended family, you receive 3 days off.

These guidelines are meant as a default grace period to take without having to think about it, not a maximum - please of course speak to Cricket or Chris about your specific circumstances in the event that you need more leave.

Vacation

Our vacation/personal time policy is:

  • Our default work days are Monday through Friday.
  • Holidays are designated in advance at the beginning of the calendar year. Holidays do not count against vacation.
  • Everyone gets 25 days of paid vacation (aka “personal time”) each year. (5 work weeks.)
  • Everyone gets unlimited unpaid vacation time, but you must check with Chris or Cricket if you use more than 20 days of unpaid time off and you must be working at least half time to receive health benefits.
  • Base salary is reduced by 1/260 of your base salary for each unpaid day off.
  • Please coordinate unpaid time off with Cricket so your paychecks can be adjusted.
  • Sick days are unlimited, but counted. Sick days do not count against vacation time.

As a general principle, we encourage employees to take real vacations where they are away from work and actually relaxing.

Vacation time doesn’t roll over from year-to-year, as we want you to use it. Unused vacation will not be paid out at any point, because, again, use it! Go on vacation!

Training and Research Projects

If books or research materials would be helpful for your work, go ahead and buy them if they’re less than $100. If they’re more, talk to Cricket first. And while in general we want folks to be working on tasks that are aligned with the company goals, it’s also sometimes important to take time to explore new ideas, go down uncertain development pathways, or do trainings that help you bring new energy and perspective to your work. Everyone has an informal budget of five days a year for experimenting or training, though we don’t officially track time for it. If you’d like to attend a training or take work time to explore something more experimental, please speak to your team of direct coworkers and to Cricket to make sure it’s a good time to take time out of the company’s overall workflow. Also, we want you to do trainings! The company will probably pay for the training! Just talk to Cricket!

Tracking Time

The spirit of our time tracking system is positive, not punitive. This system is here to help us work the right amount of time, and also take time for other things without wondering if we are taking advantage of our teammates. It is not a substitute for the assumption of trust, self-direction, and the inevitable irregularity of creative work.

Please ensure you’re working enough and not too much. Roughly 40 hours a week if you are full time and 20 hours a week if you are part time. In terms of time off, “1 day” = approximately 4 hours for half-time and 8 hours for full-time.

We do not track our time hourly, but we do track half-day increments of vacation. Please see Action Figure Headquarters on Basecamp for the nitty-gritty details of how to track your time off.

Working Hard

We work hard but we don’t only work hard and many of us don’t only work hard at Figure 53. We also have lives outside of this company. While our pace of work increases when we are close to release dates or during big projects, we avoid frantic all-nighters, or frantic anything for that matter. We generally like to work at a pace that allows for considered decision making and thoughtful work.

We are flexible about (most) deadlines, and would rather have people speak up immediately when they realize that a goal is unrealistic than torture themselves trying to get it done.

The best way that we have found to make sure that everyone is pulling their weight is to check in with each other. While we don’t have official departments, we do have small teams that band together short-term for projects, or long-term for tasks like support. Check in frequently with your teammates to make sure that you are all happy with the balance of work, or to notify each other if there are times when you’ll be more or less available.

Life Is Complicated

We recognize that our levels of stress, our family responsibilities, our mental and physical health, and our general capacity vary over time. Sometimes it’s possible to be extraordinarily productive, and sometimes life events mean that you don’t have an uninterrupted work day for weeks. As a company, we offer generosity in these situations - take the time you need, whether that’s to deal with an emergency or whether it’s a few-week period where you can’t seem to focus on anything. The trade off for the near-infinite grace of this policy is honesty. If you aren’t able to get work done, speak up about it early and explain the situation. This allows your coworkers to offer help, and to redistribute the workload so that the company doesn’t suffer in the meantime. When in doubt, communicate!

Moonlighting

Paid work done for a different organization is outside the scope of employment at Figure 53 and covered by our vacation policy. Put another way: When you’re being paid by Figure 53, you can not be paid by someone else (unless you’re using paid vacation/personal time).

That said, many of our employees have freelance jobs in addition to their work at Figure 53. We believe that this makes the company a more interesting place with better connections to other industries and to the arts. We are flexible about arranging work schedules to allow you to have life and other kinds of work outside of Figure 53.

As a guideline for an acceptable amount and kind of moonlighting, don’t do work that directly competes with Figure 53 or puts the company at a disadvantage by either the work you are doing or by your extended absence. While defining this is difficult, it falls into the “know it when you see it” category. When in doubt, disclose your outside gigs and bring up any potential conflicts of interest.

New Parent Leave

We value the employees we have and would like to keep them whether or not they decide to have and/or raise children. For employees who have been here a year or longer, Figure 53 offers:

  • 2 months of paid medical leave for anyone who gives birth
  • 4 months of paid parental leave when a new child joins your family (this is in addition to medical leave, if applicable)

If your situation requires more than 4 months of leave to care for your new child, please reach out to Chris and Cricket.

If you have been at Figure 53 for less than a year, we offer one month of paid medical leave and two months of paid parental leave.

We also offer an option for “phased re-entry”, which provides a chance to come back to work more gradually. With this option, you can exchange up to three individual months of paid parental leave for two months in which you work half your regular time but receive your full salary (for up to six months of half time total.)

Remote Work

While Figure 53 has a physical office in Baltimore, we made the decision to be an all-remote company after the COVID-19 pandemic. Action Figures in Baltimore are welcome to work out of the office, though for the time being please check in via Slack before going in to make sure that everyone’s boundaries around sharing space and air are respected.

If you’re joining a meeting, please do so from your own device. Having everyone in their own square makes for clearer communication than when some folks are together in a room in Baltimore and some are remote.

Equipment and Office Setup

Every Action Figure has a budget for computer equipment and a home office setup that resets every three years, and a monthly budget for home internet. Please see Action Figure Headquarters for the details of this.

ADA Compliance

While we are small enough that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t apply to us legally, we are dedicated to making this a safe and accommodating workplace for all employees. If you would like to request a reasonable accommodation that will assist you in performing your job, please email Cricket with a written request.

Credit Card & Expenses

Every salaried employee is issued a company credit card. Company cards are to be used for work related expenses including company lunch two days a week. Work related expenses may include technology that is required for you to complete your work, supplies for your office, approved travel for work related activities, meals for contacts and potential customers (within reason), and other items that the team deems appropriate.

For the full details of travel reimbursement and expense policies, please see Action Figure Headquarters in Basecamp.

There is a high level of trust in Action Figures and the operating assumption is that you will spend responsibly and only use the company credit card for work related expenses. If there is confusion or ambiguity about what constitutes an acceptable expense then bring the question to the team before making the purchase. Purchases over $150 must be approved in advance, and you must send a receipt for all purchases over $500 to Cricket. Credit card statements must be briefly annotated every month (see Action Figure Headquarters for details.)

Employee Feedback

We believe formal feedback is a valuable tool for improving the company and for fostering employee well-being. The goals of feedback are to:

  • Facilitate communication in both directions (suggestions for employees and suggestions for how to make the company better).
  • Provide a structure that makes it easier for us to offer each other constructive criticism.
  • Take time to think about our own roles and actions in the company.

We have rolling feedback sessions, with each Action Figure having around one of these meetings a year. They are a time for questions and comments for and from each employee. While no one is obligated to provide feedback for anyone else, everyone is offered an opportunity before each check-in to offer positive or constructive feedback that will be included in the meeting.

While we believe that official feedback is a great thing for our relationships to each other and for the health of the company, we do not want periodic review sessions to take the place of ongoing communication. Just because you know that in 6 months you’ll provide feedback for someone does not mean you shouldn’t start a conversation with them now. Go tell someone what you like about their contributions to the company, or start a dialogue if there’s something happening you’re not comfortable with.

Setting Company Goals

In order to ensure that the company is working together efficiently, that our individual priorities align with other Action Figures, and to give us all a voice in deciding what we work on, we periodically set top-level company goals/targets together. Please see Action Figure Headquarters on Basecamp for the current goal-setting process.

Other Policies

Additional Figure 53 policies and requirements are included in the Employment Agreements we all sign when we start. This handbook doesn’t replace anything in those, but most of that stuff is boring so we didn’t put it here too.


Guidelines for Communication

Part of the motivation to create this handbook came from our desire to get better at communicating. With a growing number of employees, and with those employees in multiple locations, we must take an active role in managing communication.

One of our strengths is that everyone’s voice is welcome in debate and decision-making. There is very little feeling of “stay in your lane.” As a result, managing communication is important to ensure that all parties are fairly represented and their opinions are heard. We work to make certain that everyone who wants to participate can (even, or especially, those who might initially feel less comfortable weighing in.)

Because our topics of conversation often arise organically, discussions sometimes occur when not everyone is present to participate. In many instances our spontaneity is an asset and we want to embrace that, but if you notice that there are people missing who you feel would want to participate in the discussion, say something. You can ask that it be brought up again when everyone is around, or even to have a meeting about it with everyone who is a stakeholder (or wants to be a stakeholder).

One of the takeaways from the 2014 Retreat was that we all like being able to talk things out in person together. As such we agreed to make all-hands meetings (with remote folks conferencing in) a more regular occurrence.

In the days before methodology and training institutions, directors and actors shared what they knew through tips. “You saw it tonight, got any tips for me?” “Listen, I loved it but I have one tip.” […] The person giving the tip was simply drawing it out of the well everybody drank from. Nobody assumed they had invented the tip; it was either general knowledge the other person had momentarily forgotten or something you would have learned anyway after you did a couple of dozen more plays. The combined wisdom of the tips didn’t add up to a method and there was quite a bit of play in there, meaning that whatever it was worked most of the time, but there was always an exception.

— Jon Jory

Guidelines for Communication

Practice listening. Good communication depends on listening. We try to listen to each other actively and with open minds.

Try not to interrupt. Almost everyone does it sometimes, especially when we’re having a fun conversation about something exciting. But frequent interruptions can (unknowingly) dominate or shut out other people, or make them feel they are not valued. The old classroom rule about raising your hand when you have something to say can be quite… handy.

Ask questions directly. It can be easy to think an implied question is a clear question, but often it’s not. (Especially in a chat room.) Asking your question direclty to a specific person is the best way to get an answer.

Ask specific and actionable questions. If you reduce the cognitive load required to answer your question, you increase the chances of getting an answer. (And your coworkers will appreciate it!)

Spend time on improving communication. Communication gets better when you’re willing to have a conversation about how you communicate. For example, if you’re talking about a new idea and it seems like the other person is unexpectedly nay-saying everything about it, take a step back and ask if you have similar goals for the conversation. If one person is trying to generate many ideas by brainstorming freely, while another is focused on analyzing and winnowing out bad ideas, the goals are in tension and the conversation will probably also be in tension.

Give each other the benefit of the doubt. We all annoy each other from time to time, and sometimes we even offend each other. It can help to remember - particularly in the case of written communication - that we typically aren’t doing those things intentionally. Try asking people to clarify what they mean. If you are feeling frustrated or upset, it can also help to share that feeling.

Guidelines for Feedback

Begin with observations and goals. Saying what you have noticed, or how you feel, or what you’re trying to accomplish is a solid place to start. Then you can move to analyzing those observations, or discussing how to get to the goals.

Don’t forget the positive. Identify things you like and appreciate. In feedback sessions, it often helps to start with the positive.

Read up on how others do it. Liz Lerman’s critical response process and Pixar’s Plussing describe specific techniques that can guide constructive feedback.

Guidelines for Internal Communication - The Online Edition

Our employees work all over the country. The ability to do remote work is important to us, both for its personal benefits and so that our employees can remain plugged in to the industries that Figure 53 serves. We therefore rely on online tools for a lot of our company decision making, water-cooler chat, and collaboration.

A few observations and guidelines garnered from our history of communicating online:

Tell us what you’re up to. The chat room is one of the primary ways we know what we’re all up to. At the beginning of your workday please post in the Today I Worked On channel to share what you plan to work on that day, to note if there’s anything blocking you, and to request coordination if you wish to collaborate with anyone. Please also share what you did the day before, either at your morning check in or at the end of the day. Finally, please say hello and goodbye in the Green Room when you arrive or leave. We don’t ask you to do this in order to “make sure you’re working enough”, or to replicate punching a time card. These messages are intended to help us understand how our teammates are doing and to coordinate working together.

There is not much tone in text. Tone is difficult to convey via text. When writing, craft your tone intentionally. (Sometimes it can help to explicitly describe the tone you’re trying to convey.) When reading, consider the different ways to interpret what a person wrote, or ask for clarification.

If in doubt, slow down. Chat and other text-based communication can often accelerate discussions. There’s not really an established etiquette for determining who should speak next as there is with in person communication. As a result, conversations can proceed rapidly, with many people trying to convey their opinion simultaneously. While there is a risk of leaving every topic open forever with no resolution, it can help to take a moment (or a few) to slow a conversation down so that everyone has time to think. Most decisions we make collectively aren’t emergencies, so we can take time to consider other viewpoints and diplomatically frame our responses.

In the words of Alexander Technique: “Pause and allow for breath.”

Try to catch up on the chats. While it is not a job requirement to read every line of the chat room from time when you’re not at work, it is considered a good use of your working time to catch up on them. Reading the chats can be a helpful way to stay on top of what we are all working on. It’s a good idea to glance at the rooms for projects you’re directly involved in, and please do take the time to see if you missed anything in the Today I Worked On room. Because the Green Room can sometimes be filled with a lot of non-essential chat, we make an effort to post important updates in the Company channel and on Basecamp. If you notice that important information is not making its way to you or others, speak up.

Guidelines for External Communication

We want to be kind in our dealings with our customers, our potential customers, other professionals, and other companies. We value honesty, and also value expressing honest ideas in a kind and patient way. Our brand is a reflection of our company culture and of how we behave publicly. When interacting with anyone in an official capacity as an Action Figure, employees’ behavior should reflect these qualities of patience, kindness, and honesty.

Sometimes customers do not respond warmly and sometimes (though rarely) we speak with customers who are downright rude. These interactions can result in feelings of anger in even the calmest support person.

Even then, we make a deliberate choice to treat our customers well. The choice to treat customers well is an ongoing decision that we express with our actions. The choice to treat customers well can require a difficult balance between a desire to commiserate with each other about tough customer interactions and responsibility for creating a positive environment that fosters our best work. Because much of our communication is text-based, it’s easy for frustration to spiral. There is no hard-and-fast rule about this, except to err on the side of kindness to the customers and positivity in the chat room.

This does NOT mean that we have to accept abuse. If someone is personally attacking you or being a jerk or saying nasty and undeserved things about Figure 53, we do not have to accept this uncritically. But we DO have to respond with kindness, even as we’re kindly telling people that it’s not acceptable for them to treat us rudely. When in doubt, ask a teammate for help — we have a diplomatic and talented group of people that have your back.

The same general guidelines of kindness and patience apply to any use of the company social media accounts. Don’t post negative statements about the company or customers from any company accounts. Legally we can’t tell you to do anything with your personal accounts (nor would we want to) but please remember that many of us are associated on Twitter and other social media with Figure 53. Additionally, our lawyers would like to remind you that all company social media accounts are owned by the company, and no, you can’t keep them when you go. Sorry.


Employee Code of Conduct: A safe and diverse workplace

Harassment Policy

There are lots of legal requirements about discrimination and harassment. At Figure 53, we follow all of those. But we also understand that sticking to the legal minimum is not sufficient. An absence of outright discrimination does not necessarily mean that we are doing enough to combat our own implicit biases. The absence of obvious verbal harassment does not necessarily mean that we have an equitable working environment that’s comfortable for everyone.

Taking that into account, we try to do three things as individuals: be aware of our own personal and institutional biases, call out bias when we see it (even if it doesn’t affect us personally), and create an environment where we are all open and receptive to people speaking out about any negative experiences of the working environment at Figure 53.

Creating a respectful environment is one of our highest priorities and the establishment of that environment is the continuing responsibility of every employee. Damaging that environment is as (or sometimes more) disruptive to our work than refusing to work outright. As such, violating the positive and welcoming working environment will be treated in the same manner as not accomplishing tasks: as destructive and unacceptable behavior.

To get more specific:

  • We are committed to providing a respectful work environment for all, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion.
  • Gendered or racially prejudiced language is unacceptable at Figure 53. (Please ask Cricket if you have a question about whether the word you want to use qualifies.)
  • Sexual or verbal harassment of any kind will be not be tolerated. Harassment includes verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion; gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behavior in spaces where they’re not appropriate; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of meetings or conversation; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention. Anyone asked to stop any harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

If you are harassed, or if you notice harassment of another person at Figure 53, it is important to report the incident. We also know that it can be scary for the person being harassed to report, so if you notice harassment please help them out by letting us know. We will keep your identity private unless you say it is okay to share it. Please email cricket@figure53.com with the following information:

  1. The names of the people involved.
  2. A description of the incident, including where and when it took place.
  3. Any context for the incident that you think is important to understand it.
  4. A description of the response that you believe is appropriate (i.e. a verbal warning, public apology, suspension, termination, etc.)

In the event of harassing behavior, we reserve the right to take any action we deem appropriate, including issuing a verbal warning, mandating a public apology, suspension, and termination. Cricket and Chris will review the report, speak with all involved parties, and present a proposed solution. The ultimate decision making authority for harassment response rests with Chris (unless he is the one being reported). In the event that the person who experienced harassment does not feel comfortable with either Chris or Cricket’s involvement, or with their proposed solution, the matter will be presented to a larger review board of Figure 53 employees (see below for details.)

We will do our best to respond to harassment claims within one working day to present a proposed solution within three working days.

If Cricket is the person you are reporting for harassment, please email the information to Chris instead.

If Chris is the person being reported for harassment, Figure 53 will hire an outside mediator to oversee the dispute. The mediator will be chosen by the review board (see below).

Diversity Policy

In addition to our individual efforts to make Figure 53 a welcoming and safe workplace for all of our employees, we also recognize that the company as a whole has a role to play in fostering diversity. We recognize that there is a culture of exclusion (explicit or implicit) within the tech industry that often leads to fewer opportunities for people of color, women, and other marginalized groups. Up to this point our own hiring processes have reinforced that dynamic, as we have tended to hire within our own networks. Going forward, we intend to prioritize diversity in our hiring process. We also commit to actively exploring other ways that we can contribute to making work in the technology field accessible to all, such as internships, community outreach, or mentorship.


What happens when we fail?

First of all, see “Responding to Failure” under the “What are we proud of?” section. Understand that any failure is an opportunity for us to grow as a company and as individuals. Any violations of the guidelines outlined above will first be treated as such: an opportunity for growth. Continual or recurrent disregard for the principles outlined in this document will result in punitive action, the extent of which will be contingent on the severity of the offense.

Please see the Code of Conduct session above for the appropriate response to harassment. For all other problems, the following options should be taken, in order:

  1. If you notice behavior (in yourself or others) that you don’t believe is in keeping with the principles of the handbook/code of conduct, or if a problem arises between you and a coworker, the first consideration should be whether you can work it out with the person in question. Take a look at the guidelines for communicating and for giving feedback, and think about whether it’s possible to work together to address the concern.
  2. If direct communication has failed, or if you do not feel comfortable directly approaching the person, send an email to Cricket, or to Chris if you don’t feel comfortable talking to Cricket about the issue. Cricket and/or Chris will either directly suggest an appropriate response or will facilitate a conversation between the parties involved. Other co-workers may also be called in for advice or help. We will propose a response within three working days of the problem being brought up. If the parties involved are not comfortable with the proposed response, you may call a review board.
  3. Review board (see below).

Review Board

In the event that Chris or Cricket do not feel equipped to deal with the issue alone or informally, if someone feels uncomfortable going directly to Chris or Cricket, or if the parties involved do not feel comfortable with the solution provided by Chris or Cricket after taking the steps above, any employee may call a review board. While everyone should feel comfortable employing this tool if necessary, it should be considered a serious step to be taken when other direct measures have failed. The job of the review board is to come up with a response to the incident or problem that considers the best interests of the company and its employees. The review board is made up of 3 - 4 employees:

  1. 1 person chosen by Chris
  2. 1 person chosen by the person whose actions are the subject of the board. If the issue is a dispute between two people, each person chooses a representative.
  3. 1 person chosen by the entire team with the exception of Chris and those with direct representatives

The review board will meet, either in person or remotely, and decide upon next steps. The review board will present its decision to Chris who will approve, amend, or veto it. If he chooses to amend or veto the decision then the review board will meet again and come up with another decision. Ultimately the review board and Chris must be in agreement on the appropriateness of the company’s response to the incident, and on the scope of any disciplinary action.

In the case that Chris is the Action Figure called before the review board he will forfeit his additional vote (two people will be chosen by popular vote) and the approval process will take place entirely within the review board.


In the End

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be generous.
  3. Fast can be better than slow.
  4. Slow can be better than fast.
  5. Positivity matters.
  6. Avoid pretension; deal plainly.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of Figure 53.